Jesus Feeds 9,000
“We have only five loaves of bread and two fish,” they answered. “Bring them here to me,” Jesus said. – Matthew 14:13-21; 15:32-38
Up until recently, I never had a need or an opportunity to apply these verses to my life. However, since I have been an unemployed minister for a while, I am starting to read Scripture differently, because I am starting to doubt my own resources.
As I search, seek, and ask God about my next assignment, I cannot help but wonder about my skills and talents and why so many churches have no interest in employing me. I do not have an answer at this time, but it has driven me to look at Scripture in a different light.
Because my primary spiritual gift is teaching, I have spent years reading the Bible mostly for those things I could teach from the pulpit or in the Sunday school class. However, since those two forums have recently (and, I pray, temporarily) dried up, I have resorted to reading Scripture not so much for how I can apply it to your life, but for how I can apply it to mine! Yes, I should have been doing this all along, but I am a little slow on the uptake. Just like the disciples in these two passages. Perhaps this is why these stories bothered me as I read them this morning. They hit too close to home.
In the first passage, the disciples show their concern for the crowd, but in a selfish way. They know the crowd needs to eat, but the disciples do not want to take responsibility for this task and ask Jesus to send them away. Not missing a beat, Jesus says, “That isn’t necessary – you feed them” (14:16 NLT).
However, the disciples reply by saying they do not have adequate resources. “But we only have five loaves of bread and two fish!” they tell Jesus.
“Bring them here,” Jesus says.
At that point, I stopped reading.
I am feeling a bit like the disciples. I know I have some resources, but they seem so meager and inadequate for the task. It is all too overwhelming for me. People need to be fed and taught and discipled and trained to do the work of ministry, and all I have is a little Bible training and a passion to teach.
“Bring them here,” Jesus tells me.
And I know what will happen when I do. He will take the little I have and bless it and make it adequate for the job He has assigned for me. Feeling better about myself – if not a tad rebuked – I continued reading.
Now I come to the second story, the feeding of the 4,000 (5,000 plus 4,000 equals 9,000, hence the title, if you were wondering.)
In the second passage, Jesus has to tell the disciples of His compassion for the hungry people, and guides the disciples into an understanding of the people’s need to eat. The disciples respond by wondering where they could find enough food to feed everybody. Jesus takes them a step further and asks them what they have on hand. “Seven loaves, and a few small fish,” they reply.
Once again, Jesus asks for their limited resources, blesses it, returns it to the disciples and has them distribute it to the people. Much to their amazement, the disciples discover that not only were 4,000 men fed, but like before, there were baskets full of leftovers.
I stopped reading again. This one not only hit home, it destroyed it.
I have often prided myself on my ability to read Scripture, understand enough of it to apply it in a situation, and find a way to teach it. But this second story, coming so quickly on the heals of the first, reminds me how often I have to learn the same lesson numerous times. I used to shout at the disciples, “Why are you so dense? Didn’t you get it the first time?” Now I leave the disciples alone and ask myself the same questions.
So what are the lessons for me? (I don’t know about you. Go get your own lessons.).
- Jesus knows my limited resources.
- Jesus asks me to bring my resources to Him.
- Jesus blesses my resources beyond my comprehension.
- I may have to learn this lesson more than once.
Fortunately, there will come a day when Jesus will send me out to feed the hungry, pray for the sick, teach new disciples and bring glory to His name. I only pray that I don’t have to learn this lesson too many times. I’m tired of being unemployed.
Originally posted Feb. ’09
Jim…you’re not unemployed. You are called of God. And He provides the wages. He feeds with manna. He turns rocks into water. Sorry to tell you this but …’me thinks’ (:smile:) He may be getting you prepared to ‘truly’serve Him …by ‘doing’ for others. Previously you’ve been instructing the ‘hearers’. They sit and listen to you ‘talk’ scripture. And while ‘you’ taught…’you’ learned…more than all the ‘hearers’. Been there..done that. But God and Christ..always..taught concretely…by action…by demonstration. But in a world where so MANY are ‘hearers’ only…..a deciple who ‘knows’ God turns water to wine, feeds multitudes with manna, slays enemies (Goliath), brings down walls of enemy cities (Jericho), preserves men within the fiery furnace (Hebrew chidren), shuts the mouths of lions, saves nations from famine (Joseph), and gives Himself to death to redeem man…..that ‘true’ deciple is needed in the Harvest. That ‘true’ deciple is needed in the highways and hedges to invite to the King’s Feast…for ‘they will come.’ Time is short. The harvest is about to be lost.
I ‘KNOW’ FROM EXPERIENCE that ‘teaching’ is good. But taking the LOVE of God to the ‘widows and orphans in their affliction, going to the ‘highways and hedges’ where the outcasts live, and putting your ‘trust’ in God to supply…especially the temporal needs…is truly ‘GOOD.’
Very touching post. The desire of my heart and, therefore, my prayer for you to God is ‘Thy will be done.’
Luke 22:35 And he said unto them, When I sent you without purse, and scrip, and shoes, lacked ye any thing? And they said, Nothing.
Thanks for your kind and encouraging words. I know He’ll bring me to that place He has been preparing, and when He does, what a wonderful time we’ll have. And thanks for your prayers.
I hesitate to do this, but … the last thing that you are (in my opinion) is unemployed. I know that affiliation with and organization and the associated job title and wage usually add up to “employment.” However, by a more casual definition,are you currently doing useful work? I think so. I find your willingness to reveal yourself quite inspirational – and I’m not much or easily inspired lately. So – good work!
Yes, I am employed, even if it is by the chief Employer. However, I tend to write what is on my mind at the time, and this post is quite transparent. I think many Christians go through difficult times of doubt and self-examination, and this was a time for me. It is during these times when Scripture seems to take on a whole new meaning, as it did for me in this passage. Maybe it’s because it is only when I’m most vulnerable that I’m willing to let the Spirit speak to my areas of hurt and disappointment. Now, just because I do not “feel” the exact same way now as when I wrote this article does not invalidate my thinking at the time; I can still find shades and aromas of those feelings and emotions, so I know they are there. Furthermore, my purpose in writing is not only to share where I’m at, but to be a voice that also expresses the place others are at and they can shout, “Hey, I’m not alone.” For some reason real, honest, dirty, smelly transparency is not a “religiously” acceptable commodity in some Christian circles. I guess it’s a good thing I don’t travel in those circles.
Thanks again for stopping by and giving me your insights. I appreciate it.
Very interesting… Well I got a lot out of the lessons you learned because I can see how they apply to me as well in several ways.
Equally I am amazed at how people read scripture and get different meanings. For instance, I am amazed at how many Christians seem to not care about the poor at all. I have been in enough services in my life and have heard the prosperity takes and how Jesus said the poor will always be with you but that doesn’t mean it has to be you etc.
In the church i used to attend we used to have open forums to discuss things… even in the middle of the message. As you can imagine that was a good and bad thing. But i remember talking about how there were two different Jesus’ in the bible… the one some of us read who cares about the whole person as it relates to their growth and relationship to God, the poor, needy, etc. And another one who cares about the wealthy and conservative politics only. I know you get what i mean and it pained me to try to get the words out. The “congregation” shouted things like, “Oh no there is but one God, one Jesus.” They didn’t even understand.. didn’t try to.
It seems the Jesus you serve cares about the things I’ve always thought he cares about even as a child. not that that is the ONLY thing he cares about… i’ve wrestled with many other things like the character stuff for instance. But it just hurts and discourages me so much to see the way many seem not to care about such fundamental human issues –
I know what you mean about two different Jesus’. Many times Jesus is interpreted through the eyes of the existing culture instead of through the eyes of the culture Jesus was in. Because of this, Jesus often comes in second. People will say, “I’m an American Christian” instead of “I’m a Christian who lives in America.” Or, when questioned if they are religious, they reply, “Oh yes, I’m a Baptist (or Catholic, Pentecostal, Methodist, Presbyterian, etc),” and not simply, “I’m a Christian.” It seems denominations and country often precede being a follower of Jesus of Nazareth, and that bothers me. Quite often people will try to pinpoint my denominational affiliation. I tell them I was saved in a Baptist church, baptized in a Pentecostal Church, and spent four years in a Catholic monastic community. That would make me a “Bapticostalic.” Anyway, thanks for the comments.